Archive: October, 2009
We just got this from the White House press office:
Obama Administration Delivers More than $14 Million for Energy Efficiency and Conservation Projects in Philadelphia
WASHINGTON, DC– Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced today that Philadelphia, Pennsylvania will receive $14,108,700 in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support energy efficiency and conservation activities. Under the Department of Energy’s Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program, Philadelphia will implement programs that lower energy use, reduce carbon pollution, and create green jobs locally.
“This funding will allow communities across the country to make major investments in energy solutions that will strengthen America's economy and create jobs at the local level,” said Secretary Chu. “It will also promote some of the cheapest, cleanest and most reliable energy technologies we have - energy efficiency and conservation - which can be deployed immediately. Local communities can now make strategic investments to help meet the nation's long term clean energy and climate goals.”
DOE is announcing nearly $93 million in funding today from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support energy efficiency and conservation activities in Chicago, Illinois; Fort Worth and Houston, Texas; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Los Angeles and Sacramento County, California.
Philadelphia will use its Recovery Act EECBG funding to realize many elements of Greenworks Philadelphia, the city's sustainability strategy, which calls for a 30 percent reduction in municipal energy usage by 2015, while also promoting energy efficiency in sectors such as transportation and waste management. In addition, Philadelphia will employ grants and an innovative revolving loan program to incentivize the private-sector to invest in energy efficiency in ways that contribute to long-term regional economic prosperity. Philadelphia will devote $1 million of its EECBG funds to help implement energy audits and retrofits for municipal buildings that can help restore buildings to their optimum efficiency levels. Philadelphia will also match $3 million in EECBG funds to install 85,000 LED traffic signals that require far less energy than conventional bulbs and have significantly longer lifespans.
Mayor Nutter says he is supportive of the legislation to reform the Board of Revision of Taxes introduced today by City Council.
“The legislation today that was introduced clearly addresses the principles I laid out on Tuesday,” Nutter said, adding that he hoped for swift passage of the bill.
Nutter said he supports the broad strokes of the bill, which would eliminate the BRT by 2011 and splits their responsibilities between a new Office of Property Assessment and a Board of Property Assessment Appeals. But he said he remains concerned about the BRT employees who are on the School District payroll.
That longstanding arrangement means that those workers can avoid rules that govern city workers, like a ban on political activity and the requirement to live in the city. Green’s bill does not specifically address the workers on the school payroll.
“I will ask our city solicitor to give me a legal opinion on the employment status of BRT workers on the school district payroll,” Nutter said. “Every one working at the BRT should do so in conformance with the Home Rule Charter.”
The troubled Board of Revision of Taxes is the hot issue up in City Council today.
Councilman Bill Green has introduced legislation to reform the BRT, which came under fire after an Inquirer series detailed mismanagement, patronage and inaccurate assessments at the agency.
The legislation would abolish the BRT by 2011 and to create two new agencies: the Office of Property Assessment and the Board of Property Assessment Appeals. It has 14 co-sponsors, in addition to Green. (Council members Rizzo and Blackwell are the only members not on board.)*
“The ultimate goal is to restore public faith in our assessment and collection of properties,” Green said.
The legislation does not change an arrangement under which 80 BRT employees are on the School District payroll -- something Mayor Nutter has outlined as a priority.
Nutter yesterday said he had not read the Green legislation.
Could legislation to legalize table games in casinos across the state wind up sapping cash from a community benefits agreement signed last year by SugarHouse, which breaks ground in Fishtown today?
On the editorial pages, a Casino-Free Philadelphia volunteer explains why the fight goes on to stop SugarHouse and Foxwoods, a casino planned for South Philly.
Mayor Nutter strikes a deal with the Board of Revision of Taxes to take away the power to assess properties, giving that role for now to his Finance Department.
And the city's sales tax just went up by 1 cent on the dollar to 8 percent.
Here's the press release:
NUTTER ADMINISTRATION, BRT REACH AGREEMENT ON INTERIM REFORM
Memorandum of Understanding establishes Interim Executive Director, puts assessment function under responsibility of Finance Department
Philadelphia, October 7 – Mayor Michael A. Nutter announced today an important step toward restoring public confidence in the property tax assessment system. Mayor Nutter and the Board of Revision of Taxes have reached an agreement which establishes the Finance Director (or his Designee) as the Interim Executive Director of the BRT and brings the assessment function under his/her responsibility.
This agreement, detailed in a Memorandum of Understanding, will remain in effect for an initial term of six months. The Interim Executive Director will immediately begin a review of all functions and operations of the BRT which will begin the process of reforming the system.
“I have been very clear that reforming the property tax assessment system is an urgent priority and we need to move as quickly as possible,” said Mayor Nutter. “I am committed to the goal of passing legislation this year which will be put to the voters in May 2010. I believe City Council shares this goal. In the meantime, we need to stabilize the system and restore public confidence, bringing the property tax assessment fully under the responsibility of the executive branch is an important step in this process.”
The Interim Executive Director will supervise all operations of the BRT relating to real estate appraisals, valuations, and assessments. The Board of the BRT will retain responsibility for matters relating to appeals of real estate valuations and will continue to make all determinations in the granting of exemptions to general real estate tax policy and any duties performed by the Board in connection with eminent domain proceedings conducted by the Board of View. The Finance Director shall report to the Mayor while keeping the Board fully apprised of day-to-day operations and future plans. The former Executive Director of the BRT resigned September 4th, 2009.
Watchdog group Committee of Seventy just weighed in on the Board of Revision of Taxes, urging the mayor and City Council to move forward with reforms. Read their statementhere.
The state budget impasse hits day 100 tomorrow and local activists will protest the situation in Center City. Organizations that receive state funding have been waiting for a budget for months.
Here's the press release:
WITHOUT A PENNSYLVANIA STATE BUDGET…
…and there are more than 100 ways Pennsylvania citizens are being harmed…
Join us as we mark 100 days and protest the budget impasse!
Mayor Nutter and John Hickenlooper, mayor of Denver, have dropped the traditional baseball playoff series bet that requires the mayor of the losing town's home team to send some sort of popular local delicacy -- cheesesteaks from Philly, something made of buffalo from Denver -- to the mayor of the winning team's town. Instead, programs that help the homeless in both cities will benefit.
Nutter said he and Hickenlooper anticipated a match-up -- the National League Divisional Series between the Phillies and the Rockies starts this afternoon -- during a meeting last week of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Seattle. The two mayors decided to try something other than the "our food is better than your food" bet, he said.
So the winning city will get $2,000 while the losing city will get $500. In Philadelphia, the cash will go to Project H.O.M.E. In Denver, a similar homeless outreach organization will benefit. The money is being put up by Citizens Bank and Comcast here and First Bank in Colorado.
“We decided that we have a great opportunity here not just for some great baseball but to support a great cause," Nutter said this morning. “This is a situation where, at least on the homelessness side, no matter what happens in the game, both of us are going to win. Obviously I’m hoping for the larger amount.”
Hurry shoppers -- today is your last chance to hit the stores before the city sales tax shoots up to 8 cents on the dollar.
The sales tax is currently 7 cents on the dollar, with 6 cents going to the state and 1 to the city. The temporary increase -- which starts tomorrow -- will bring the city 2 cents for every dollar spent.
The tax hike is one of several budget-balancing moves approved by the state legislature last month to help the city. It will expire in five years.
Food, clothing and medicine are exempt from the sales tax in Pennsylvania.
The New York Times architecture critic today takes a hard look at the design plans for the new museum on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway which will house the famous Barnes Collection -- and isn't impressed. Nicolai Ouroussoff says the slick new design lacks the eccentric charm of the Merion mansion where the collection has lived for decades. Here's an excerpt:
But the result is a convoluted design. Almost every detail seems to ache from the strain of trying to preserve the spirit of the original building in a very different context. The failure to do so, despite such an earnest effort, is the strongest argument yet for why the Barnes should not be moved in the first place.
To read the entire article click here.